THS, TMS form first bowling teams

The Thompson high and middle school bowling teams will use Pelham's Oak Mountain Lanes as their home venue. (Contributed)

The Thompson high and middle school bowling teams will use Pelham’s Oak Mountain Lanes as their home venue. (Contributed)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – New Thompson High School bowling team coach Michael Craycraft wasn’t sure what kind of response he would receive when he struck out to select the school’s first bowling team.

“It’s a sport you don’t associate too much with this area, so we didn’t think we would get a big turnout,” Craycraft said. “We made announcements in the schools and tried to get the word out as much as we could.”

This year, the Alabama High School Athletic Association approved bowling as an “emerging sport” for middle and high schools throughout the state, meaning teams can compete this year before the sport is fully sanctioned by the body next year.

The AHSAA worked with bowling alleys across the state to reach an agreement for school teams to use the facilities for practice and competition at certain times.

Craycraft, a special education teacher at Thompson Middle School, and TMS social science teacher Chris Hollingsworth, who is coaching the TMS bowling team this year, reached an agreement with Oak Mountain Lanes in Pelham allowing the teams to use the facility without charge for the next two years.

“They are very gracious to allow us to use the facility for free,” Craycraft said, praising Oak Mountain Lanes manager Tom Barberini and facility youth programs coordinator Robert Fox. “That will help us to generate funds and really get our program off the ground in the first few years.”

After posting information about the teams at the two schools, Craycraft and Hollingsworth received a significant amount of interest from students with all levels of bowling experience.

“I would say most of them are at a novice skill level. They’ve bowled before, but for the most part they’ve never had any instruction,” said Craycraft, who bowled collegiately at Morehead State University in Kentucky. “We were able to take 10 for the high school team and 17 for the middle school team.”

The teams started practicing on Nov. 3, and will have their first match Nov. 17 against Hoover High School, Indian Springs School and Liberty Park Middle School. The schools also are planning to have a Warrior Classic tournament on Jan. 16, 2015, against several Birmingham-area schools.

“It’s a great sport,” Craycraft said. “Students who want to participate, but who may not be interested in basketball, baseball or football, will have another option.”